John Medlin Jr., who presided over Wachovia Corp. during a 17-year period when its assets grew tenfold and it became a national banking institution, has died. He was 78.

Medlin died Thursday of a heart attack while playing tennis at a country club at Grandfather Mountain, near Linville, N.C., according to Sheffield Hale, his son-in-law. He lived in Winston-Salem, N.C.

During his tenure as chief executive officer, from 1977 through 1993, Wachovia's assets grew to $35.3 billion from $3.6 billion, The New York Times reported in 1993. Medlin joined Wachovia in 1959 and he served as chairman until 1998, when he became chairman emeritus.

Medlin was an early backer of First Union Corp.'s successful acquisition of Wachovia in 2001, the Winston-Salem Journal reported. The collapse of the subprime-mortgage market produced a $24-billion loss at Wachovia for the third quarter in 2008, leading to its sale to Wells Fargo & Co., announced in October 2008.

Wells Fargo, based in San Francisco, replaced the last Wachovia signs in its branches last year. "But Wachovia will always be indelibly etched on my mind and in my heart," Medlin told Business North Carolina in 2011. "It was my life for 40 years or so." Medlin told the publication that his generation of Wachovia leaders consisted of "disciplined entrepreneurs" who took "calculated risks."

Medlin was born on Nov. 23, 1933, in Benson, N. C., according to Marquis Who's Who. He graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 1956. He was an officer in the U.S. Navy from 1956 to 1959, according to a Wells Fargo biography.

He is survived by his wife of 54 years, Pauline, and two daughters, Elizabeth Hale and Ridgely Phillips.

Latest Videos

Newsday LogoYour Island. Your Community. Your News.Digital AccessOnly 25¢for 5 months